By SHAYNE THOMAS
Seneca County Commissioner
It’s an exciting time in Seneca County. There is a technology revolution and it is happening right here, right now. Seneca County is positioning itself for the world of 2067. Recently, the new justice center was completed in the center of downtown Tiffin, the county seat. As is customary we included a time capsule. The committee (under the leadership of fellow County Commissioner Holly Stacy) that was charged with collecting artifacts from our time decided the capsule should be opened in 50 years (2067). This 50-year timeline began to frame my thinking on policy decisions. Our policies should be hopeful and looking forward to the year 2067. Indeed Seneca County is positioning itself for the long term as a viable community prepared to compete globally as a place to live, work, and run a business. Here are a couple examples of ways the county is preparing for 2067.
At the Justice Center, we outfitted the cupola with state of the art color-changing LED lights. This has become an important focal point of the community. We have been able to send worthy messages about the success of local sports teams, tragic deaths of local teens, celebrations of first responders, as well as recognize inclusive dates like Pride Month and Down Syndrome Awareness days. Technology allows us to communicate with our community with 30,000 light varieties, celebrating, grieving and raising awareness.
Data management and data capacity are paramount in preparing for 2067. In order to address this growing technological need, the county has decided to invest in two important pieces of infrastructure. We have committed significant resources to build a comprehensive fiber ring connecting our county facilities. This will be completed through a public-private partnership where we leverage the expertise of a successful local company while gaining access to virtually unlimited data capacity for the taxpayers. This fiber will enhance services at county facilities and open new markets for the local company but most importantly it will allow us to enhance our safety service delivery. That investment combined with a substantial investment in a climate-controlled and generator-backed up server facility combine to make 2018 a record year for technology investment in Seneca County.
Not all technology adoption is new technology. In a recent health survey for Seneca County, it was identified that county residents cited a lack of access to recreation opportunities as a health concern. Walking, biking and hiking are low-tech solutions to a modern malady. The good news on this front is that the citizens of Seneca County have two important developments which will greatly enhance the quality of life by 2067. The Seneca County Park District successfully passed a levy which has already started to change the community for the better. We are starting to see significant investments in the parks of the county. Additionally, Seneca County Regional Planning Commission received a grant to do a comprehensive Active Transportation Plan. Countywide, the plan will identify appropriate corridors for recreational and commuter use thus making an old technology new again.
Seneca County has become the epicenter for renewable energy in Ohio. Without question it comes with controversy, however, in 2011 the County put in place a policy designating Seneca as an Alternative Energy Zone. This policy has been successful in garnering two economically significant utility-scale wind farms, Seneca Wind, LLC and Republic Wind, LLC. Combined, these two projects represent signed leases of around 50,000 acres and a combined investment of about $500,000,000. To put the investment in perspective the value of all the Seneca County agricultural land in 2017 was $329,214,680. The total value of the housing stock in the entire city of Tiffin was $187,266,010. Combining the entire value of both approximates the investment value being proposed by energy companies in Seneca County. The Ohio Power Siting Board is the agency responsible for approving and regulating these energy projects. If the energy companies are successful in gaining approval, then Seneca County will certainly be a leader in renewable energy for the foreseeable future. The technology revolution has played out in this space. It would have cost at least 25 percent more to build these projects less than a decade ago. Not to mention that today we are getting more advanced turbines that are safer, more friendly to wildlife, and more efficient.
The technology of communication seemingly changes daily. We can find almost any and all information online and a large range of opinions on social media. It is quite noticeable that people often search online for affirmation, not information. Our intent is to provide original source information about county business in the most transparent ways available. It is then up to our citizens to use their own critical thinking skills to evaluate commissioners’ actions. We have made an investment to post videos of our complete meetings online. Each meeting is associated with a pre-meeting and post-meeting news release. Our social media is dedicated to increasing the information flow and transparency of the government the people elect.
2067 is just around the corner.
In Seneca County, we are committed to making sure that we are a viable and livable place when that year arrives.